Thursday, October 04, 2007

Humming a Yiddish Tune

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The song "Nature Boy," made popular in 1948 by Nat King Cole, is one of those songs that has been bouncing around in my head recently. I just started humming it out of the blue. It's a really difficult song to sing, but I was able to hum all of the notes in the song, without remembering most of the words. These are the words that I remembered: "Nature boy," "enchanted boy," who learned that the greatest thing "was to love and be loved in return."

The song writer's story is quite intriguing. A beatnik poet who was born in Brooklyn, eden ahbez, convinced Nat King Cole's manager to bring his tune "Nature Boy" to Cole's attention. (ahbez chose to spell his name with lowercase letters because only God’s name is worthy of capitalization, he said.)

Cole immediately took to the tune and included it in his repertoire. He wanted to record the well-received song but had trouble finding its writer to get the publishing rights. Nat and his manager finally found ahbez—-he was camped out beneath the famous “Hollywood” sign in California. Cole’s version of "Nature Boy" made it to #1 on the Billboard charts in 1948 for eight weeks straight.

Yiddish composer Herman Yablakoff--who claimed that the melody from one of his songs, "Sveig Mein Hartz" (Be Still My Heart), was also the melody for "Nature Boy"--sued Ahbez. The song does, indeed, have that klezmer feel to it. The case was eventually settled out of court.

According to a Web site called Song Facts, Ahbez wanted to correct the tag line of the song. He decided that "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is to love and be loved in return," was not really what he wanted to say at all, since "to be loved in return" has nothing to do with love, he said. He wanted the last line to be, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is to love, just to love, and be loved."

Nature Boy
Words and Music by eden ahbez

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return"

10 comments:

Michael Brown said...

…and so we search near and far. Through this life and the next… and the next… and the next… for the greatest lesson of all… just to love and be loved in return.

The Special One

Still your beating heart
Let your soul be at rest
The time has come
She is… the special one

The last one you see when you close your eyes to sleep
The first one you see when you wake up
Your first breathe…

She is… the special one

The one to fill you when you’re empty
The one to lift you from your deepest sorrow
Your wings to fly

She is… the special one

The one to stand by your side… good times and bad
The one to share each step… when you run or when you fall
Your forever-beautiful song

You finally found the special one

Take a deep breathe…
Let your heart take flight…
Sing your forever-beautiful song…

You finally found the special one

Still your beating heart
Let your soul be at rest
The time has come

Together in life and love forever…

She is… The Special One


a Poem by
Kyndall Brown

Alicia Benjamin said...

That's a beautiful poem, Kyndall Brown, especially for a pre-teen. Thanks for sharing!

Kyndall Brown said...

Thank You Ms Benjamin. I wrote this poem for my cousin's wedding. Usually, I don't write mushy love poems but this was special occasion and my Dad did help me.

Alicia Benjamin said...

Good job Kyndall.
:-)

Anonymous said...

Do you love yourself? Do you love yourself enough to know yourself? When you love yourself you don't worry about who loves you in return. Your self love keeps you in tune with a higher purpose to acheive. This is what keeps you waking up to a "brighter day." The lack therein, keeps you in bed and questioning.

Duane said...

Thank you so much for this post. Valuable info. Nature Boy is one of my favourite Nat King Cole songs. It is a beautiful song.

Alicia Benjamin said...

Anonymous,
Yes, I agree, when you say, "When you love yourself you don't worry about who loves you in return."
I think that's what I was trying to get at when I wrote this:

He [The song writer decided that "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is to love and be loved in return," was not really what he wanted to say at all, since "to be loved in return" has nothing to do with love, he said.

Alicia Benjamin said...

Duane,
You're welcome. I've just realized lately what a strange tune "Nature Boy" is. It is quite lovely.
It makes me want to investigate other Yiddish or Klezmer songs.

PatricktheRogue said...

Alicia,
You are right to point out how difficult the song is to sing. My attempts to master this song and another Nat Cole song, "Lush Life" (by Billy Strayhorn) helped me immensely in my journey as a singer. In the liner notes for the CD it says that this was JFK's favortie song and he requested for NKC to sing it when he performed at teh White House. It really is powerful and a joy to sing.
Cheers,
Shaun

Alicia Benjamin said...

Hey Shaun!
You're doing better than me. I wouldn't even attempt to sing "Lush Life" outside of my shower.
:-)
Peace,
Alicia